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ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY IN SOFIA TO REFORM SUBSCRIBER DEBTORS BY BANK GUARANTEES

The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) imposed two pecuniary sanctions of BGN100,000 each to the Electricity Distribution utility in the capital city. The company was fined for introducing a lasting practice of making consumers build at their own expense the necessary equipment for joining the electricity supply network, and after that delay the purchase of the facilities as per its obligation under the Energy and Energy Efficiency Act, the anti-trust commission explained. The matter was referred to the CPC by Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev.Construction of outdoor power supply equipment for connection with the network may be at the consumer's expense only if the economic inexpedience has been proven and other sources of financing cannot be provided, the CPC specified. The commission established that Mr. Vladimir Georgiev was not given any arguments for the necessity to install the necessary equipment. Nevertheless, he built the equipment and the Electricity Distribution company accepted it as its property, for use, disposition, and operation. In that way the company injures the interests of consumers and at the same time makes profits from the sale of electricity without having made any investments for that. Thus, we have abuse of dominant position, CPC's stance reads. ---------------------Household subscribers of Electricity Distribution - Sofia will have a 10-day term to pay their electricity bills, while the respective term for business subscribers will be just 3 days. If they fail to do that, an interest is calculated for 10 more days, and afterwards power supply to the debtor is switched off. Even if the subscriber has not received a notice about consumed electricity, he is obliged to pay the bill. The Electricity Distribution company should publicly announced the periods for reading of electrometers and those for payment of bills. This is stipulated by the new general terms for power supply which the company released in the beginning of the week, to be discussed by the public. Unlike the currently effective document, the new one includes relations with business consumers as well. However, when electricity is used at the same time for both household and business purposes, the bills will be calculated as per the expensive rates for household subscribers. Electricity bills could be paid in advance, but only to the amount of average monthly consumption. Business subscribers will again have to open a bank guarantee. Such an obligation, as per the new terms, will also apply to household consumers who have delayed the payment of their bills. The bank guarantee for them should be twice higher that the overdue amount and to be kept for at least 12 months. If the client refuses to remit the money to the bank, his power supply shall be cut off. The demanded guarantee will be eliminated when bills are paid regularly within the set terms for a year. Then the subscriber could dispose of the blocked sum plus the interest accrued for the respective period. Households which have delayed the payment of their electricity bills by more than 10 days 3 times within a year, will be provided with special electrometers, measuring the previously paid quantity of electricity, and their power supply will be cut off after that limit is exhausted. In case of a denial to pay the bill, the debt will be collected forcibly. Business subscribers will be required to deposit a bank guarantee, amounting to the bill for electricity consumed within 300 hours, calculated as per the day rate tariff. The guarantee will be changed if consumption exceeds the guaranteed quantities by more than 10 per cent. The Electricity Distribution Company will have the right to cut off power supply to those who refuse or do not provide access to their electrometers. They will be also fined to pay BGN10. Checks will be made from 06.00 hrs to 22.00 hrs (presently this is done between 08.00 hrs and 20.00 hrs. The aim is to catch theft of electricity. When a consumer finds out that his electrometer is damaged or its seal is missing, he should immediately notify the electricity distribution company. Anyone who does not preserve or damages the electricity supply equipment (due to damaged electricity appliances or wrongly connected power supply network at home, in the office, or enterprise) is also threatened to be fined or his power supply to be cut off. The obligations of Electricity Distribution - Sofia are also described in detail in the general terms. For power failure for more than 24 hours the company will be paying a compensation of BGN20 plus BGN10 for each period of 12 hours following. The time will be counted from the moment when the company is notified about the power failure. In order to get a compensation, the consumer is to file an application within a month. Inhabitants of Sofia suburbs where power supply is still of a poor quality, will be probably most pleased with the new regulations. Voltage there is so low, that sensitive electronic equipment (computers and TV sets) switch off automatically, and even 100-watt electric bulbs glimmer. If it is established that the voltage is 10% down or up from the standard 220 volts or the frequency is different from 50 hertz, the electricity utility will be paying up to 10% of the bill. Inspections will be made on the request of discontented subscribers. The electricity company should undertake due action within three days of the notification and eliminate faults if such are found. If parameters are within the norms, the subscriber will have to pay for the inspection. The main elements in the new general terms do not differ very much from the currently effective regulations. The project is in compliance with the existing documents, with the agreements reached with consumer organisations, and with the experience of electricity distribution companies in big European and American cities, Electricity Distribution - Sofia pointed out. After the project is discussed, by March 15 at the latest it will be moved for approval by the State Commission for Energy Regulation. The new regulations will have the force of a contract with the subscribers of the Electricity Distribution utility. Consumers who do not agree with them may file within 30 days an application with proposals for changes. Terms proposed by consumers and accepted by the company, will be included in additional agreements in written, insiders of Electricity Distribution - Sofia promised.

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